By John Trump
Family members and lawmakers, in Washington, D.C., and Raleigh, representing N.C. residents are mourning the deaths of a Marine and soldier who died in a terrorist attack while helping Americans and others evacuate from Afghanistan. Thirteen service members, including a Fort Bragg soldier and Camp Lejuene Marine, died while supporting Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, the Department of Defense announced Saturday, Aug. 28.
Sgt. Nicole L. Gee, of Sacramento, California, was stationed at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejuene in Jacksonville. Gee, who was 23, was assigned to the Combat Logistics Battalion 24, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, II Marine Expeditionary Force.
Army Staff Sgt. Ryan C. Knauss, of Corryton, Tennessee, served with the 9th Psychological Operations Battalion, 8th PSYOP Group at Fort Bragg. Knaus, too, was 23.
About 200 Afghan civilians were also killed in the attack on Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, which involved a suicide bombing and gunfire from an offshoot of the terrorist group ISIS. The 13 service members returned to the U.S. on Sunday, met with a dignified transfer ceremony at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. The U.S. responded to the attacks with drone strikes over the weekend targeting leaders of the Islamic terrorist group, which calls itself ISIS-K.
“We were led to think that it was 12 Marines and one Navy, and we knew our grandson was in the Army,” Knauss’ grandmother, Evelena Knauss, told Daily Beast, as reported by The Fayetteville Observer. “So we were praying for the families of the Marines, not knowing our grandson was one of the ones who lost his life. … You just don’t think it will be yours.”
This was Knauss’ second deployment to Afghanistan, the Observer reported.
USA Today reported that, a week ago, Gee posted a photo on Instagram showing her holding a baby at that airport. “She added a simple, profound comment: “I love my job.” The same photo was posted by the Department of Defense on Aug. 21, the newspaper wrote.
Sgt. Mallory Harrison, a fellow Marine who roomed with Gee for more than three years, remembered her in a Facebook post accompanied by more than a dozen photos, USA Today writes.
“‘Her car is parked in our lot. It’s so mundane. Simple. But it’s there,’” she began the post. “‘My very best friend, my person, my sister forever. My other half. We were boots together, Corporals together, & then Sergeants together. Roommates for over 3 years now, from the barracks at MOS school to our house here. We’ve been attached at the hip from the beginning.’”
N.C. Democratic Sen. Kirk deViere represents Cumberland County, home to Fort Bragg and Fayetteville. Military deaths such as these leave painful, lasting cuts, but no more so than to places such as Fayetteville and Jacksonville in Onslow County, where the heart of the community beats in step with the military.
“In military communities like Fayetteville and Jacksonville, it’s especially hard to learn about the death of a service member,” deViere told Carolina Journal. “Many of those on the front line for our country are members of our community — they are our family and friends, members of our church, or a parent of a child’s classmate.”
U.S. Rep. Greg Murphy’s district encompasses Camp Lejeune; U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson’s, Fort Bragg.
“I am devastated to hear of the passing of Sergeant Nicole L. Gee,” said Murphy. “I want to offer my most sincere condolences to Sergeant Gee’s family and loved ones during this extremely difficult time. Sergeant Gee’s bravery, empathy, patriotism, and unwavering commitment to others will never be forgotten. Her willingness to put herself in harm’s way to protect her country is the most selfless act one can commit, and words are not enough to convey our gratitude. Sergeant Gee’s heroism represents the very best of America. I pray that her family, friends, and fellow Marines find peace and healing in this dark time, and rest assured that Sergeant Gee’s memory will live on as an example to us all. God bless our U.S. Marines, Gold Star Families, and all U.S. service members.”
Said Hudson, “Renee and I join our country in praying for the family of Staff Sergeant Ryan Knauss, including his wife in Pinebluff and his extended family in Tennessee and Florida,” said Rep. Hudson. “His loss is felt by our entire Fort Bragg community and our nation will never forget his sacrifice, as well as that of all of our fallen service members. They put their lives on the line to save our fellow citizens and allies in harm’s way. They are heroes.”
President Biden, as well as the Defense Department, have been harshly criticized for their decisions surrounding the withdrawal from Afghanistan, which has been nothing short of a tragic debacle. Biden said he wants to complete evacuations by Tuesday, Aug. 31. Some Republican lawmakers are calling on him to resign.
“This week is yet another dark week in a string of tragedies that will forever impact our nation’s future,” said U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx, who represents the state’s 5th District.
“The loss of American service members in Afghanistan, and the nature of those lost, has shaken the country to its core,” Foxx said. “Tom and I are praying for every servicemember on the ground in Afghanistan, the families of the fallen, and the Americans who are still stranded.
“It should have never gotten to this point,” she said. “The failures of President Biden and his administration cannot be overstated. The Biden Administration seems blinded by the notion of making these next few days our nation’s last in Afghanistan — and in so doing, some of the worst in our modern history.”